Rick Astley scholar John Oliver devoted a lengthy segment of last night’s Last Week Tonight to the topic of assholes on the internet, online harassment, and the woefully ineffective law enforcement options for those dealing with revenge porn and online threats.
“This does not just affect women in gaming. It could potentially affect any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind and then vocalizing it online,” Oliver explained during the 16 minute segment.
Part of the problem with policing internet activity, Oliver says, is that police have no idea how to police internet activity.
That’s a problem, because the police cannot investigate the crime if they genuinely don’t understand the medium in which it happened. If someone tried to drown you, you don’t want the police saying ‘Oh I get the murder attempt but what’s this water thing you keep bringing up? Is it like air, but a bit more chokey, is that what it is?’”
The other problem is that there’s generally no legal guidance, even for the cops who get it—in most states revenge porn isn’t even illegal, leaving victims grasping for substitute charges like stalking or harassment, and in some cases requiring them to trademark their naked photos to get them off the internet.
“Now you would assume that it’s illegal to do that to someone. The problem is, there is no federal law specifically against revenge porn. And in Maryland, where she lived, revenge porn was not illegal at the time,” Oliver said. “In fact, only 23 states have passed laws specifically against revenge porn. In the other 27 it’s one of those things that should be explicitly illegal but isn’t.”